A renewed tool kit to explore Chlamydia pathogenesis: from molecular genetics to new infection models.
Chlamydia trachomatis is the most prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen and the leading cause of preventable blindness in the developing world. C. trachomatis invades the epithelium of the conjunctiva and genital tract and replicates within an intracellular membrane-bound compartment termed the inclusion. To invade and replicate in mammalian cells, Chlamydia remodels epithelial surfaces by reorganizing the cytoskeleton and cell-cell adhesions, reprograms membrane trafficking, and modulates cell signaling to dampen innate immune responses. If the infection ascends to the upper female genital tract, it can result in pelvic inflammatory disease and tissue scarring. C. trachomatis infections are associated with infertility, ectopic pregnancies, the fibrotic disorder endometriosis, and potentially cancers of the cervix and uterus. Unfortunately, the molecular mechanisms by which this clinically important human pathogen subverts host cellular functions and causes disease have remained relatively poorly understood because of the dearth of molecular genetic tools to study Chlamydiae and limitations of both in vivo and in vitro infection models. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the experimental molecular tool kit available to dissect C. trachomatis infections with a special focus on Chlamydia-induced epithelial barrier disruption by regulating the structure, function, and dynamics of epithelial cell-cell junctions.
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